Do you want to speak a second, third, or fourth language? Acquiring a new language is the process of constructing your understanding of a new language for use in conversation. When you learn a new language, you get a rewarding experience that also makes your resume more favorable to employers. Foreign language skills also enrich your social and cultural experiences, enabling you to communicate with more people at home and abroad.
For adults seeking new language skills, the process of language acquisition in adulthood is important to understand. Some linguists believe we can tap into the brain’s natural wiring for language acquisition by building skills through social conversations. This concept is explored in the following points on adult language acquisition.
Your personal feelings about your capacity to learn the language will affect how much of the language you acquire. This idea is supported by Stephen Krashen’s affective filter hypothesis. If you can build confidence in speaking the language gradually with support from native speakers, you can increase your vocabulary and your understanding of how to use the language in different social situations. Parents can see this concept play out when their children are immersed in a school where teachers and students speak a language other than the child’s home language. A child’s academic progress is affected by his or her self-confidence, including how others perceive his or her language skills.
Learning a new language is also influenced by the natural ways you learn. Constructivists believe people build knowledge by linking it to prior knowledge and reshaping it into a new system of beliefs. Adults may acquire a new language in the same way they learn other information. Alternatively, adult learners may need to match their learning style with the right language program.
Grammar is included in many language programs. As an adult learner, choose a goal for how well you want to speak the language. Each language includes many levels of proficiency. Do you seek basic conversation skills or native-like proficiency? Your goal for language proficiency guides your choice of how to learn the language. The next consideration is how much time to spend learning language skills using a foreign language program.
Variety of Learning Methods
Learners can choose from many learning methods, including taking a class, using a web tutorial, listening to instructional tapes, reading a book in the foreign language, watching television programs broadcast in the foreign language, and traveling to a country for language immersion. A person who wants to know a small amount of phrases in the second language may find the web-based tutorial provides enough instruction. On the other hand, a person who wants to use the new language on the job may require a combination of strategies, including formal instruction and foreign travel.
As an adult learner, you need to understand your learning style before choosing a language learning program. Do you learn best through visual, auditory, or kinesthetic stimuli? Take an online learning style inventory or get tested at a local college or university. A professional educator or counselor can help you understand the results of a learning style inventory. When you know how you learn best, you can choose a language learning program that accommodates your learning style.